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Latvia’s Catholic bishops try to ‘stay calm’ amid Russian threat

The Latvian capital Riga (AP Photo/Roman Koksarov)

Catholic officials in Latvia are trying to stay out of the region’s ideological war with neighbouring Russia.

“Latvia is home to a large Russian population and there are Russian-speakers in the Catholic Church. We’re sensitive to historical animosities here, which could be reignited and used politically,” said Mgr Paul Klavins, spokesman for the bishops.

“It would be easy and dangerous for us to become involved in this ideological warfare – so our bishops have tried to stay calm and avoid taking sides,” he told the US Catholic News Service.

“We know we’ll always have to live with our big neighbour, Russia – this is a historical reality. But we can do so in a friendly, peaceful way, even without much closeness,” he added.

In February, governments in Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia announced new security measures, including the reintroduction of conscription, against perceived dangers from Moscow.

Mgr Klavins told CNS Latvia’s Catholic bishops had taken part in ecumenical prayers with Orthodox leaders for peace in war-torn Ukraine and had encouraged their clergy to emphasise “prayer, healing and reconciliation” in homilies and public statements.